Archive for November, 2006

coming up for air

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

We’re three days into the tour, and it’s been a whirlwind. The shows are going very well. It’s great to play to an audience that’s only 50% mine, as I have to work hard to win them over. But when I do, I know I’ve expanded my audience by a few hundred folks; and it will ricochet on from there. BT’s core fans are generally quite like mine (except—face it—a little younger and hipper!) The respectful way they treat him at the meet’n'greets, and the deep knowledge and affection they have for his whole body of work, feels very familiar.

Traveling down California was nonstop, and fraught with the technical and logistical and business issues attendant to the start of any tour. Relearning the art of getting to sleep on a rolling tour bus means we’re all quite dazed. And yesterday in Anaheim I had to get up early, rent a car and drive myself ahead down to San Diego to do two live radio shows. BT joined me for the second, which was on a (pretty rare!) non-Clearchannel owned station called 94.9.

We each played a piece live on the air, with laptop, MIDI keyboard and drum controller. I snuck into an office next door and listened to BT ‘on the radio’ and his piece sounded fantastic. He was using Ableton Live and my TriggerFinger to tweak and effect one of the tunes on his new CD. This was mainstream, drivetime radio, beaming top drawer state-of-the-art ambient electronica in real time.

In separate interviews, the DJ, a very well informed guy called Mike Halloran, asked us each the same question: was there a moment in your youth when you knew you were going to become a professional musician? I answered first: for me it was late one night in around 1973 when I saw Roxy Music on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, and Brian Eno posed demurely at the back with his leapoardskin armlets and platform boots and Minimoog front panel. Then BT said that for him it was the night he watched my performance on the 1985 Grammies with Stevie, Herbie and Howard Jones (see the Billboard article in my previous blog.) How curious that the infectious music meme passed down the generations like that.

The twelve of us are slowly acclimatizing to living and sleeping on a 45ft tour bus. I woke up this morning around 6am in my bunk, and walked the length of the sleeping area which is like a cryogenic dormitory of a spaceship on a 70-year voyage to a distant planet. In the lounge there was daylight and I cracked open a blind. Outside it was pristine Arizona desert. Miles of flat wasteland, cactus, rocky outcrops, trailer homes. Out there somewhere is the Boneyard, where the carcases of former fighter planes and broken Jumbos slowly rust in the early morning sun.

For all the moaning musicians do about life on the road, I have to admit there’s still a certain romance to it, when I only do it every 15 years or so…..

from this week's Billboard

Thursday, November 30th, 2006


December 02, 2006
BT And Thomas Dolby Take Their Experiments On The Road

When BT—aka Brian Transeau, electronic music’s resident renaissance man—was but a Maryland teenager, he watched Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones, Stevie Wonder and Thomas Dolby perform at the 1985 Grammy Awards. With an Amadeus-wigged Dolby conducting, the crew played a medley of their current hits completely on synthesizers—keyboards, samplers and other plastic boxes that defined the sound of the ’80s. “I thought, ‘I have to do that someday,’ ” BT says, without irony.

A few years and a series of auspicious coincidences later—BT’s manager Richard Bishop was the landlord of Dolby’s first studio in the ’70s, for instance—the two met during Dolby’s April gig at the House of Blues. “We did what my girlfriend calls ‘clearing the dressing room,’ ” BT says. “There were guys and girls hanging out, and we just sat down together and disappeared down the Firewire virtual instrument wormhole.”

The pair found a good deal of common ground. Electronic musician Dolby, best-known, to his chagrin, for ubiquitous ’80s single “She Blinded Me With Science,” is also the founder of Beatnik, which created the polyphonic ringtone software currently used in more than 100 million mobile phones worldwide. BT has done some programming, too. He created BreakTweaker and StutterEdit software for music production, both slated for release in 2007.

They also shared ideas about technology, the business and the live performance of electronic music and decided to explore them together. They embark on an 18-date U.S. club tour Nov. 28, which will include kooky instruments and strong visual components, as well as the requisite synthesizers.

Among BT’s custom-made arsenal is his young daughter’s toy megaphone, altered for maximum noisiness, and a “tricello,” a resaddled, three-string hammer dulcimer. Dolby has vintage film equipment with “enormous brass levers” jacked into synths, creating what he calls a “Cold War vibe.” For visuals, BT’s got a dedicated VJ working a “mini-Pixar workstation” to generate content on the fly; Dolby will build audio tracks from scratch with Logic software and show the audience his progress via a camera strapped to his head.

Not coincidentally, both are also promoting audiovisual releases: Dolby’s “The Sole Inhabitant,” a DVD live collection from his recent solo tour, comes out Nov. 21, and BT’s “This Binary Universe,” a surround sound electronic symphony release earlier this year, included a DVD component.

© Billboard 2006.

(Reproduced with thanks.)

BT /TD tour kicks off

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Tonight was great! An excellent start to the tour. Of course there were glitches to be worked out–but that’s what first nights are for. I stood and listened to BT’s set and it sounded amazing. Very dreamy, ethereal, uplifting. A lovely sheen of top end harmony sometimes giving way to a bed of grinding low-res noise. People were spellbound. And that’s even without the visuals–there was no room for video at the Red Devil so we did it with audio only.

A few gigs from now we will be totally cooking!

Launch party a hit!

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006


The party at the Red Devil Lounge in SF last night was great. I was very happy to see 100 of my friends up in the balcony and scattered through the crowd. It was a much looser show than I have been doing: there was no video (not enough space really, and Johnny is in Texas) and no trenchcoat. I was joined onstage by Greg Camp, guitarist and songwriter from Smash Mouth and a Pacific coastside neighbour. He played some sweet atmospherics and cool funk on ‘Budapest By Blimp’ and ‘Europa.’

Then I introduced Jazz Mafia, a 3-piece brass section headed by the amazing Adam Theis on trombone. We zipped through some of my brassier songs, most of which I’ve always done with sampled brass and not the real thing. it was a joy to hear them played on the actual instruments, and Adam has done a fine job of transcribing and arranging them. We played ‘Hyperactive’, ‘May The Cube Be With You’, ‘Airhead’, ‘Science’, and ‘Hot Sauce.’ The section parts were interspersed with some fine solos. I think I’d like to do more work with these guys! The combination of electronic grooves and live brass is very sexy. I’ve doen some party gigs this year where I felt my Sole Inhabitant set was just too dark for the assembled revellers. I’m playing one such party on New Years’ Eve in Orange County, and I’m hoping to bring horns down for that. I’d like to dig a bit deeper in my catalog and do things like ‘I Scare Myself’, ‘Key To Her Ferrari’ and ‘Sieve’, all of which featured brass in some form.

It’s quite weird for me to turn around and see someone on stage with me. I probably should have been giving them better cues, but after 40 solo shows I’m so used to it just being me and my machines up there! Although, as someone blurted out last night, my daughter Harper played three shows with me. But she’s family, that doesn’t count :)

Jon Luini, who does my podcasts, was there with a camera last night and sent me these stills. Hopefully he’ll include a few clips from last night’s party in a future episode.





Pics: ©Jon Luini

Eight tracks

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006


I love this 8-track version of ‘The Sole Inhabitant’, created by Wadcorp.

Before I get into trouble I should state categorically that this is a spoof! There’s no such product.


Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Today I’m releasing my new CD and DVD. Total insanity prevails. I am jumpy as a Mexican bean today. I’m only able to take the time to write this because a scheduled interviewer never called me. It all started early this morning with the rush to get CDBaby sync’d up so that folks that are the first to order the autographed versions will get the low numbers. They pulled out all the stops and the pages went up a few minutes ahead of schedule. Then it turns out the CD manufacturer LOST a box of 1200 CD insert booklets. These were to be the ones I was going to number, autograph and re-insert. They admitted their mistake and will have a new batch sent to join me on tour probably in LA early next week. So those of you holding out for autographed discs: don’t worry, it’s all in hand, you may just have to wait a little longer. The good news is CDBaby has been incredibly co-operative and they should all go out in the correct order.

Then a panic when I went to iTunes all excited about the news I’d gotten that most highly desired of all things these days, a featured CD in the ‘brick’; I clicked on a song preview and it was hideously distorted…. bought 1 song and that too was horrible… freaked out and unwrapped a CD and that was just as bad…. just about ready to slit my wrists at this point…. then just for the hell of it tried playing a song in QuickTime and Internet Explorer instead, and both were fine. Turns out my iTunes player doesn’t like my album. Phew!

In the midst of all that, I went and sat in my car to check the CD there and that I wasn’t losing my mind. But there was my album, all pristine sounding. I am so proud of it, and grateful to my incredible team who have helped me put it together. And my lovely audience who have waited so long for me to come back to music. Thank you all!

The Red Devil Lounge party tonight is sold out. I have a about 100 friends and associates coming, and we sold another 150 tickets to the public. I asked the club to limit the sales so people will be able to mingle and get to the bar. For a change I’m going to come out front and hang a bit instead of hiding out backstage; I’ll play for a hour or so, and I’ve got some cool musical guests to help out on a few songs. we’ll have amerch table with the CD and DVD so this is actually the first place you can officially get your hands on it. Of course we’ll also have them next week and throughout the BT tour, along with some new t-shirts and posters.

Rattle and Hum

Friday, November 17th, 2006

There’s a distantly familiar sound in my ears: the buzz of activity leading up to an important record release! Here are the some of the symptoms:

-The phone keeps ringing with scheduled calls from journalists that I had forgotten to write in my calendar

-The web and podcast statistics have curious spikes in them resulting from incoming traffic from high-profile sites like iTunes and Yahoo and SFGate and NPR

-Friends I haven’t heard from in years are coming out of the woodwork and want to attend the launch party next week

-Three seperate people called to say they heard me on the radio with ‘Jonesy’

-I have nearly 40 boxes each containing 100 unopened CDs and DVDs cluttering up my living room (thankfully I was able to get the rest sent direct to CDBaby, Amazon, and my publicist)

-I nearly missed my plane the other day–I lost track of time and when I got to the gate it had already closed. But I could see the plane had not left so I banged on the door. A polite stewardess opened it and said ‘ah Mr Dolby, the captain was just wondering what happened to you!’ And as I sprinted down the ramp and onto the plane I heard blurted out from the cockpit ‘SCIENCE!’ (True!)

These kinds of things don’t happen on a regular basis. I have to say it’s still quite a thrill, even for a jaded old geezer like me.

'Leipzig' podcast is up

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

Episode 1 of my podcast series is live! It’s ‘Leipzig Is Calling’ from my show at Martyrs in Chicago, plus a story about the night I recorded the original vocals, on a canal barge in Little Venice. I dug around a bit and found this pic of it. It was a few boats down from where Richard Branson used to live.

I’m writing from a hotel in Buena Park, CA (behind the ‘Orange Curtain’) getting ready for a radio spot tomorrow on Steve Jones’ show, yes! the former Sex Pistols guitarist. I played a charity football match against him once, and he was pretty good. Fortunately I won’t need to gush about how much I adored ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and ‘God Save The Queen’ as a teenager, as I met Rotten a few years ago and I did enough gushing for both of them.

Tomorrow evening (or rather tonight–Weds 15th November) I’m playing a gig at Cerritos Art Center, an hour or so south of LA.

podcast series gets its own page

Monday, November 13th, 2006

My new podcast series has a snazzy new page of its own on my web site:

The podcasts and their web page, by the way, are the work of Jon Luini of Chime Interactive, a very excellent online promotion company specializing in just this. Jon is a comparative neighbor of mine from just down the Pacific coast in Santa Cruz. we have know each other several years but this is the first time we’ve worked together. He’s got his podcasting chops well honed and he’s doing a fine job on this project! I am hoping he can come down dow to my CD launch party next week at the Red Devil Lounge in SF and shoot some video for use in future episodes.

fire alarm

Sunday, November 12th, 2006


I’m at the airport waiting for a plane that’s been delayed. Trying to get every cent of value out of my $7.95 one-time AT+T charge for wi-fi. (When will they figure out there needs to be free wi-fi everywhere, and stop trying to rob us?)

I was giving the keynote speech yesterday at an event run by NARAS called MusicTech06 at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

About 5 minutes into it, the loudspeakers blurted out an announcement that there was a fire alarm and everyone was required to evacuate the building.

Now if I make a speech that’s not going well, and the audience starts pelting me with rotten vegetables, my backup plan is to have an accomplice flip the fire alarm button. Making sure of course that my MacBook is under cover in case the sprinklers come on.

On this occasion my talk was going gangbusters, so it was quite upsetting when the fire alarm turned out to be genuine. We stood around outside in the chilly Seattle morning for 45 minutes and watched the fire trucks arrive. It turned out there was a leaking gas main, and it would be hours before we could get back into EMP. I briefly considered asking for a megaphone and a soap box and finishing my talk Hyde Park Corner style.

But the moment passed and 150 of us walked a couple of blocks to a shopping mall and waited. After a bit we heard that a new venue had been provided by the Mayor’s office. I was able to resume my speech but had to skip a few of the less important slides in my presentation (Global Warming, A Cure for Cancer, World Peace etc.) and go right to my usual rant about people with an uncontrollable knee twitch, and greasy record company executives who just have to hug me, costing me a fortune in dry cleaning fees.

Thanks to penmachine for this pic.